One day when I was 16 years old I had the day off from school but my mother still had work. Because she always thought about my future, she asked me to join her at the office for the afternoon.
I agreed. We thought it would be a good idea for me to see first hand what she did for a living, meet her colleagues, and get a feel for a professional workplace.
This was the perfect chance for me see what the working world looked like. Did I truly want to work for a company like Pacific Bell in San Francisco, where my mother had been since the 1970s?
This type of "teenager visits the workplace scenario" isn't too uncommon, and it can be relatively easy for employers to manage.
However it isn't nearly as practical for young children or babies to make that office visit.
The workplace is generally for grown-ups, or those close to adulthood. This can be hard for employees who have become parents, who may be juggling multiple schedules in the family and have no choice but to sometimes bring a child in to work.
Whether your business is leasing a small space or you own your own set of office suites, a young child can cut into the professionalism you're trying to create.
Not only can it disrupt employees in the area, but it also sends the wrong message to any clients who visit your location. If you find your office is no longer 100 percent childfree, here are some things you can do.
Most employees don't simply show up with a kid in tow. There's likely a phone call first, explaining the situation. It can be difficult to say no, especially if this is the first time.
However, if you agree, you'll possibly be setting up a precedent that will allow this worker, as well as any others on your team, to bring children in when other arrangements fall through.
"No" doesn't have to be definitive. You can suggest the employee take the day off or work from home for the day if that's possible. In fact, if your work arrangements don't allow for it, this may be a good time to rethink that.
As a business leader, you've likely gotten legal involved when you needed a way out of something. This time is no exception. Having a child in the workplace poses a liability for your business, since your insurance may not cover any injuries that occur if there's an accident.
You don't have to make the rejection specific to children. State that only authorized personnel can be in the building, since your business is responsible for the people working in your area.
You are, after all, leasing the space for business use. Your building's management office may agree with this, since they also could have liability concerns over children on the premises.
Review Your Policies
As employer, you have the right to put policies in writing specific to children in the workplace. Whether you decide to allow children or not, there should be documentation covering your liability, including what hours children can be on site and that they should never be unattended.
This might also be a good time to review your company's leave policies.
A set number of personal days each year could give parents the leeway they need to take a day off when childcare arrangements fall through.
Increasing the number of annual sick leave days they get may also help with the issue.
After studying happiness levels in 22 countries, researcher Jennifer Glass found that happiness levels in parents versus non-parents were the same in every country but the United States.
Her team dug deeper into the difference and found that workplace programs that supported parents increased employee happiness. She specifically cited employers who provide childcare and flexible work schedules.
A child-friendly workplace isn't the only solution, but occasionally allowing a worker to bring in a child might be a good start. If you do decide to allow this, make sure you're prepared to set boundaries.
On a slow Friday before a holiday weekend, for instance, it might be more acceptable than a busy Monday when you have in-office meetings scheduled.
Make sure employees know they are responsible for their children while on site and that they should not be disruptive or distracting.
Parenting while working can be tough, especially on those days when school is suddenly canceled, or daycare arrangements unexpectedly fall through. When faced with the option to let employees bring their children to work, it's up to your own discretion. Having a policy in place beforehand can give you the leverage you need to say "yes" or "no."